With so many amazing places to visit in Greece, when it comes to booking a vacation, the biggest problem is often how to pick a destination. Well if you love Greek food (and if you don’t, you’re probably doing it wrong), here’s a suggestion: why not let your belly decide?
Food tourism in Greece is bigger than ever. Oinotourism, or wine tourism, has been leading the way, with ever more well-designed wineries around the country offering comprehensive and delightful tasting tours. But did you know that you can also go mushroom hunting, visit farms, take cooking classes, and visit museums focused on the making of traditional sweets?
Depending on what you’re looking for – wine, olives, marmalades, cheeses (it’s cheeses, isn’t it?), or something else, there is a place or a route that’s perfect for you. Below are some of Greece’s best interactive foodie destinations, arranged geographically to help you plan your trip.
Vasilis Papadopoulos’ family-run farm is situated on the banks of Kerkini Lake, in the protected wetlands at the foot of Mount Krousia; the perfect location for raising buffalos in their natural habitat.
Founded in 1999, the business does everything from breeding and raising animals, to processing the final cured meats. It is open to visitors who can see the animals up close, inspect the modern farm facilities, and sample cold cuts and buy meat to take home. They make amazing kavourma (a kind of traditional cured and slow-cooked meat) and smoked sausages.
Kerkini, Serres, Tel. 23270.41151, 694.883.1352. You need to make an appointment to visit.
Vangelis Gerovassilios’ famous winery is located in Epanomi, southeast of Thessaloniki, in the middle of a beautiful vineyard. The winery itself and the vineyard are both exemplary, and it’s truly a place every wine lover should visit. Aside from the regular wine tastings and seminars, the basement houses a wine museum featuring, among other things, a selection of 2.600 bottle openers.
Epanomi, Thessaloniki, Tel. 23920.44567, www.gerovassiliou.gr. Open Mon, Thu & Fri 10.00-16.00, Wed 13.00-19.00, and Sat-Sun 11.00-17.00. You can find all the information about events and seminars on their website.
The people at the Naoumidis estate are completely invested in the production of their famous Florina peppers. They raise the plants from seeds, growing the peppers in the area of Aghios Panteleimonas, at an elevation of 600 meters. The peppers are then transferred to their stone-built processing plant, outfitted with modern equipment, which also features a tasting hall where guests can try the products, as well as two restaurants.
Guests can watch the processing of the peppers from beginning to end, and enjoy a meal from one of the menus created by the chef of the family, Angelos Naoumidis. Of course, you can also purchase all of the Naoumidis products.
Lake Vegoritida, Aghios Panteleimonas, Amyntaio, Tel. 23860.61438. Open Mon-Fri 09.00-18.00.
The Averoff vineyard is situated higher than any other vineyard in Greece. The tour of the stone-built winery with its modern tasting facilities is a unique experience, combining the rustic aesthetic of the Metsovo area with modern audiovisual systems and artistic touches. It is worth a visit to have a meal (cooked with local ingredients), take a stroll through the vineyards, visit the art gallery, and stay the night in one of the uniquely decorated rooms.
Metsovo, Tel. 26560.31490. Make an appointment to visit Mon-Fri 10.00-16.00.
Guest House Anemi
Pavlos and Lila left life in the city in order to open Anemi. “The heart of any house is the kitchen,” they say, and this guest house is all about the old wood-burning oven which has been renovated using natural materials such as clay, soil, and straw. Here, meals last for hours.
They also organize alternative activities designed for every season such as wool handicraft workshops and loom weaving, walks in the rain, mushroom picking, and marmalade, chutney, pasta and cheese making.
Kato Pedina, Zagori, Tel. 26530.72003.
Theopetra Estate and the Tsilili Distillery
The crystal clear tsipouro made by the Tsilili family is famous throughout Greece. What not too many people know however, is that they also run the Theopetra Estate winery. The estate is well-worth a visit, to see both the excellent winery and the organic vineyards surrounding the prehistoric cave of Theopetra. Of course, the experience would be incomplete without a visit to the distillery as well as tastings of tsipouro and wine made from Greek and foreign grape varieties.
Raxa, Trikala, Tel. 24310.85885. You need to make an appointment to visit.
Natural History Museum of Meteora & Mushroom Museum
Known by most as the “Mushroom Museum” because, aside from the over 300 kinds of stuffed animals, it also houses the first museum dedicated to fungi in Greece, featuring all the main varieties. It is divided into three sections, each representing a different eco system, giving you an idea of how various types of mushrooms survive in each. They also organize mushroom and truffle hunting walks, led by experienced mushroom collectors in the fields and forests nearby, as well as cooking and culinary classes – including making truffle pasta out in the open.
20 Pindou, Kalabaka, 24320.24959. Open Mon-Fri 09.00-17.00 & Sat-Sun 10.00-18.00. You can purchase dried mushrooms at the museum shop. To learn about the mushroom hunting workshops and seminars, contact the museum.
CENTRAL GREECE & ATTICA
Many have heard of Bralou Farm thanks to the farm-to-table philosophy espoused by their eponymous butcher shops and restaurants in the Athens neighborhoods of Kifissia and Kolonaki. But where does the excellent meat come from? The actual farm in Bralos is located at an elevation of 650 meters. On its 350 acres, scattered with wild olive and fruit trees, the animals are free to roam.
Their feed is also produced on the farm, and their shelters are built of natural materials like stone and wood. During a visit you will see the only Black Angus Purebred cows 100% bred in Greece, as well as buffalos, sheep, goats, Greek black boars, pheasants, geese, partridges, and other animals.
Bralos, Fthiotida, Tel. 210.271.3126, 694.495.0555. You need to make an appointment to visit.
Gastronomos Award winner Diamanti Farm is an excellent organic farm to visit where you can purchase freshly-picked seasonal fruit and vegetables. The family of Spyros Chrysoulas and Maria Diamanti also produce great sheep’s milk yogurt, feta cheese, and other traditional cheeses such as graviera (similar to a gruyere) and anthotiro (soft, fresh, mild cheese) from milk produced on the farm. When the weather allows, the animals are left to walk freely around the farm.
2 Thiseos, Tymvos Marathona, Tel. 22940.67866. Open Sat-Sun 09.00-18.00
The Orchard in Vari
Covering less than 4 acres, the Orchard in Vari is the perfect place to come to learn about permaculture (the basic idea is of which is to create sustainable farming methods based on ecological principles). There is also a restaurant where you can enjoy scrumptious organic food cooked by chef Giannis Stanitsas. Most of the vegetables grown here are used to cover the needs of the restaurant, but if you ask, they might be able to sell you small quantities to take home. You can also buy other products at the small deli, such as their fresh eggs and honey, as well as products from other small producers who share their mindset.
15 Kirgion, Vari, 210.896.3000. Open Tue-Fri, from 14.00 until sunset.
The Margi Farm
Just outside of Athens, surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, The Margi Farm grows Greek fruits and vegetables with natural agricultural techniques. It exists to provide the kitchen of The Margi Hotel (in the suburb of Vouliagmeni) with top-quality ingredients, but is also open to visitors for guided tours. Visitors pick their own vegetables and these are then turned into delicious dishes by the hotel’s chef Panagiotis Giakalis.
Kalyvia, Attica, Tel. 210.967.0925. Open Thu 18.00-23.00, but you have to make a reservation.
Greece doesn’t have many mushroom farms, but you’ll find an excellent one in central Evia that is open to visitors. Agronomists Lefteris Lahouvaris and Thanasis Mastrogiannis grow their own mushrooms at the farm, and also pick and sell wild mushrooms from the forests of Dirfis. They will give you tours in their showroom, where cooking classes and tastings also take place. They also organize mushroom hunting trips in the forest.
Katheni, Evia, Tel. 22280.71300. Open Mon-Fri 10.00-16.00 and Sat-Sun 10.00-18.00. Classes and organized mushroom hunts have to be booked in advance.
By the sea on the Peloponnese, surrounded by green vineyards and olive and palm trees, you’ll find the historic estate in Pyrgos Ilias. Built at the end of the 19th century by the Mercouri family, this is a destination for true wine lovers. Practicing integrated farming, and producing wines from Greek and foreign varieties, it’s a small paradise. You’ll have your tastings surrounded by age-old pine trees and Koroneiki olive trees with a view of the Ionian sea and Zakynthos. Don’t miss out on sampling their excellent olive oil as well.
Korakochori, Pyrgos Ilias, Tel. 26210.41601, www.mercouri.gr. Open Mon-Sat 09.00-15.00.
Base yourself at House Venikos, and let the experienced Nikos Bouzinelos take you on tours to selected food and wine tourism stops in the Peloponnese. The central theme of the outings will be wine, and the Nemea wine region in particular, but you will also be able to take part in cooking classes, and visit local farms.
Koutsi, Nemea, Corinthia, Tel. 27460.23436. Only by appointment.
Karamanos Organic Farms
Organic farmer Sofia Karamanou is a Gastronomos Quality Awards winner. Visit her Nafplio estate and buy some of her wonderful produce, spoon sweets and marmalades made from their homegrown fruit; and pasta made with their sheep’s milk at the little shop. They also sell products made by other small producers. In the spring, you must try their famous strawberries.
Leof. Asklipiou, Aria, Nafplio, Tel. 27520.43093, 697.624212. You need to call ahead to visit the farm, but the store is open Mon, Tue, Thu & Fri 09.00-14.30 & 17.30-20.30, and Wed & Sat 09.00-14.30.
Aglaia Kremezi is a cookbook author who, along with her husband Kostas Moraitis and their small group of coworkers, also runs a farm in Ioulis. At this farm, you’re welcome to join them on gastronomic adventures including cooking lessons, tastings of wine, olive oil, cheese and honey, combined with walking and guided tours around the surrounding villages, beaches, and archeological sites. Every season features a different program. In the fall, for example, you can take part in the production of olive oil.
Ioulis, Kea, Tel. 22880.21917, 693.2413205. Go for one to six days, or arrange a custom visit. You have to call ahead.
It is said that the secret behind the loukoumia (Turkish delight) of Syros is the semi-salty water from the Aghios Athanasios spring. For sure it also has to do with the copper cauldrons in which they were – and are still – cooked. The Sikourtis family makes them in this traditional way, ensuring their product always comes out as delicious as it was in the old days. Here, you can watch the loukoumia being made, sample the various flavors, and go on a guided tour of the Industrial Museum of Ermoupouli, curated by Ms Sikourti, where you’ll find objects saved from the old closed-down loukoumi stores that were once the pride of the island.
Ermoupolis, Syros, Tel. 22810.81390, 697.745.5145. Only by appointment.
Cooking Lessons with Nikoleta Delatola Foskolou
Nikoleta Delatola Foskolou is an author and an expert on Cycladic cuisine. She welcomes you with warm hospitality, makes you feel at home, and teaches you the local cooking methods and recipes using seasonal ingredients from her own vegetable patch, and meat and fish from the island. You’ll feed the animals, learn how to cultivate vegetables, get familiar with the island’s culinary history, and have a barbecue. Everything you try, from the wild artichokes to the cured meats, the bread and spoon sweets is homemade.
Smourdia, Tripotamos, Tinos, Tel. 22830.23506. Only by appointment.
Using modern equipment, Giorgos Syrianos and Thanasis Kousathanas make cheese using fresh goat and sheep’s milk from around the island. The cheese workshop, near the busy Psarrou area, is new but has already gained a great reputation. They make traditional local cheeses such as ksinotyro (“sour cheese”, aged for 5-12 days), tyrovolia (a soft spread locals often enjoy with pita bread), and two versions of the famous kopanisti (one is matured and sharp, the other younger and lighter). You can buy cheese to take home, of course, and they also organize cooking classes on occasion, with a focus on Mykonos’ traditional cuisine and cheeses.
Mykonos Farmers, Aghios Lazaros, Mykonos, Tel. 22890.23970. Open Mon-Fri 08.00-21.00 from April to October. During the winter only by appointment.
There is an old mansion in Halki on Naxos, where the Vallindras family have been producing their liqueurs from the peel of the islands citron fruits since 1896. A member of the family will gladly show you around the distillery, with its old stills, bottles, and bottling tools, and tell you about the art of distillation and the history of this famous Naxian liqueur. The highlight is the tasting hall next to the showroom, where you can purchase liqueur to take home.
Halki, Naxos, Tel. 22850.31220. Open Mon-Fri 09.30-23.00, or by appointment.
Wine tourism has been a growing industry in Santorini for years, thanks to their excellent wines, which are some of the best Greece has to offer. At the Sigalas Estate, you’ll experience something very different from the busy atmosphere around the caldera. In the lush garden by the vineyard, in front of the winery which looks more like a rich farmhouse, you’ll taste the wide range of their incredible wines and spirits. You can also enjoy a fantastic meal, cooked with local ingredients.
Baxes, Oia, Santorini, Tel. 22860.71644, www.sigalas-wine.com. Open Mon-Fri 10.00-20.30, and Sat-Sun 11.00-20.30.
At the Vassilakis Estate in the Mirabello region of Crete, you’ll get a guided tour through the old olive oil factory and through the new, hypermodern facilities, where you can see the whole oil-making process from start to finish. The tour ends with a tasting and advice from the experts on how to recognize good olive oil. You can also sample and purchase olives and raki (a traditional Cretan spirit).
Neapoli, Lasithi, Crete, Tel. 28410.33653. Open during the winter, Mon-Fri 09.00-16.00, or by appointment.
Greek Culinary History & Cooking Adventures
Having studied archaeology and sociology, Marianna Kavroulaki took a particular interest in the culinary customs, cooking methods, and recipes of the ancient Greeks. Through Greek Culinary History & Cooking Adventures, she hosts seminars and workshops about cooking in ancient times, as well as historical dinners, and other interesting events.